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Traveling in March with 3 teenage boys( 18,15,13) to costa rica!

Traveling in March with 3 teenage boys( 18,15,13) to costa rica!

Old Oct 25th, 2004, 01:29 PM
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KFL
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Traveling in March with 3 teenage boys( 18,15,13) to costa rica!

Hi, I received an itinerary from a web site for our trip that looks like this. How does it sound? From San Jose, fly to Manuel Antonio to Hotel Costa Verde. Safari Tour next day with ziplines and pond swimming. Next day Savegre Rafting. 3rd day free in M.A.national park. 4th day fly to San Jose & drive to La Paz waterfalls.See Then drive to Tabacon lodge.5th day go to Arenal Hanging brdges. 6th day hike at the volcano, then drive back to san jose tohotel Grano de Oro. Would we have more fun driving ourselves? This is all guided driving. Any ideas of companies that anyone has used for touring and been really happy with? Thanks!
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Old Oct 25th, 2004, 03:04 PM
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It is a good itinerary --- and one that you could easily arrange on your own. Clearly, having one's own vehicle offers greater flexibility. The question is ... do you want to do the driving? One issue that immediately comes to mind would be renting a large enough SUV to accommadate your family and luggage. When you say "guided driving" I'm not clear what that it --- is this a package tour (i.e., they arrange hotels/transportation) or is it an escorted tour (a group of people that's schlepped around the country).
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Old Oct 25th, 2004, 03:45 PM
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Hi, it is a package tour through Costa Rica Experts. They provide transfers from airports, pick ups at hotels for tours and rafting. They provide suv transportation for us from San Jose to Arenal and back again. So, it would probably be only us in the car, or maybe another couple too. This tour seems a bit expensive, $1300 pp with out flight (I have that already) It does include a lot, 2 lunch (for 5)in Quepos,all meals in Arenal, all hotels and transfers. What do you think?
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Old Oct 25th, 2004, 05:03 PM
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As Tess said, you can arrange the same itinerary on your own. $1300 pp sounds pretty steep to me, compared to what my husband and I paid for 3 weeks, including airfare.

One transportation option, besides flying, which you can book online, is to use a van service such as Interbus. Very professional and reasonable. You do share the van with a few others. They have a website with schedules and prices. Or you can hire a private driver. Or drive on your own. Be sure to confirm each leg the night or so before, or have your lodge do so for you.

It's amazing what you can arrange over the computer, and the people on this forum are incredibly helpful.

Still, if you hate the idea of arranging things yourself, you can compare packages. There are many differnt companies. Hopefully, you will get some good recommendations here!
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Old Oct 25th, 2004, 07:06 PM
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Hi KFL,

Are you all 5 staying in the same room, or will have 2 rooms? Does the price include the costs of the rafting, zip lines, guides for MA and guides for your volcano hike, admission to LaPaz waterfalls and admission to the Hanging Bridges? Does it include the flights from SJO-MA-SJO? If so, then I don't think it's that bad a deal.

The costs of all of those tours do add up. Just to give you a ballpark idea - zip lines $45 pp, MA park admission $7 pp, guide for MA $20pp, LaPaz admission (w/buffet) $35 pp, Hanging Bridges admission(no guide) $20 pp, we did a Penas Blancas Safari float at about $40 pp.

Also, most of the "turismo" vans hold about 10-12 people, so you may have several more on the trip with you. This may or may not be a positive thing. (Spring break is a busy time).

We did a trip in August with 5 people (2 hotel rooms at each location). We had no in-country flights, but had a private driver. We did many of the same types of activities you are planning and ate very well. Adding it all up, we probably paid several hundred $ less than your packaged tour. The convenience of having someone else work out all the details may be worth that to you.

However, if they are charging you $1300 pp and are squishing you all into one room and you are paying for all your admissions and tours yourselves, then you can do much better booking everything on your own.

Whichever you decide, I'm sure you'll have a great trip!
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Old Oct 25th, 2004, 10:08 PM
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I went with my 14-year-old last year and we had a blast. We initially planned to take tourist transfers between towns, but when I missed a bus, we rented a car for the rest of the trip and it was really fun that way! One thing if you do go it alone: stick to the larger roads - don't take and "shortcuts" that go through palmfields.

The boys will love ziplining! Another really fun activity you might want to try in MA is ocean kayaking. You spend a little time on the ocean, and then some time drifting through the mangroves - it's really cool!

I agree with all others that you can arrange a whole lot of this stuff on your own. One source I found extremely helpful was a man named Jacques, whom you can reach through arenal.net or monteverdeinfo.com. He's got a really nice family, and is very reliable as a source of information and as an in-country transport booker. Drop him a line!
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Old Oct 26th, 2004, 05:08 AM
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KellyF
How was the driving from place to place? Some say awful, some say fun. I think this tour is too much money, I am going to keep searching. IVK-They are putting us in one room in the MA area, and actually, they really are not including many meals. With 3 boys, that is an issue! Any tour groups anyone would recommend? The areas to see are very spread apart. We only have sat.to sat., and I want to see the Arenal area, the Manuel Antonia Park (to get to the ocean a bit) and do whitewater rafting, ziplines, and cloud walks. Any suggestions on route? We could fly and drive some of it.
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Old Oct 26th, 2004, 06:40 AM
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We're doing a similar trip in March with our three kids; 22, 18, and 14. We're doing two nights in Arenal, two nights in Manuel Antonio, and two nights in San Jose (only because we're doing an all-day raft trip from there.) We've decided to either hire a driver or use the transports from the hotel to each of the locations (my husband doesn't want to have to deal with a car, and that's fine with me.) The transports are about $150 to each location. We plan on doing all the same activities and am REALLY hoping it doesn't cost $6,000! I've reserved two rooms as we'd kill each other in one room (except in Manuel Antonio where we have a bungalo.) Anyways, I'm curious to know how your plans end up since our trips sound so similar.
Good luck,
Laurie
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Old Oct 26th, 2004, 07:26 AM
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If you're really set on a packaged tour, try www.costaricapackage.com.

Neta, the woman who puts it together, can help you a great deal with the details once you tell her what you're looking for.

You could also try booking it all on your own. It seems intimidating at first, but once you get your hotel reservations and transportation nailed down, everything else falls into place pretty easily. This board helped me so much in planning our trip.
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Old Oct 26th, 2004, 01:14 PM
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KFL,

Like Costa Rica Expeditions, 'Central America' offers different levels of packages from independent tours to escorted tours --- http://www.centralamerica.com
?Ray? a frequent poster on the ThornTree (http://thorntree.lonelyplanet.com) has a website that may be helpful --- http://Costa-Rica-guide.com
In particular you may want to read his page on ?choosing between a tour and independent travel in costa rica?.

As a prior poster mentioned, it's very important to get all the details about what is and what is NOT included in the $1300 package being offered by CRE. As it now sounds you are considering putting together your own trip, here are several websites to help you on that path:

ACCOMMADATIONS:
TABACON -- http://www.tabacon.com -- Upside of staying @ Tabacon is the unlimited access to their hot springs; although they are considered the 'most plush' accommadations available in Arenal area, the hotel rooms aren't quite as nice as one may expect from the rates. Their prices have risen alot over past few years. Another benefit to Tabacon is the buffet breakfast that is included in their room rates; ample and good. BUT, in contrast, the dinners @ Tabacon are so-so in quality, especially for the price. Don't get me wrong; I like Tabacon, however in your instance where you'd have to book two rooms for your family, you may be able to find more cost-effective accommadations elsewhere in Arenal area --- see http://www.arenal.net

MANUEL ANTONIO:
I've stayed at La Mariposa in MA; and many people, especially those travelling with families recommend Si Como No. Here's the website for Costa Verde and I notice they have bungalow accommadations --- http://www.costaverde.com/
I think with a family of five, you'd be better off seeking a bungalow / apt / small house rather than two hotel rooms or even trying to jam everyone into one room.

TRANSPORTATION:
Two buslines, 'Interbus' and 'Grayline' offer van service to/from major points throughout CR. Cost is $25 to $38 per person.
http://www.costaricapass.com/
http://www.fantasy.co.cr/fantasy_bus.html

However in your situation, with five people traveling, it could be as cost effective to arrange your own transfers rather than using Interbus or Grayline --- http://costaricatransfers.com/rates.htm

For flying within Costa Rica, there are two airlines, Sansa and Nature Air.
https://www.flysansa.com
http://www.natureair.com/




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Old Oct 26th, 2004, 05:33 PM
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Hi, I've recieved a much more reasonable quote but very different agenda. From San Jose, off to Arenal.Stay 2 days,the 3rd day head to the Peace Lodge at La Paz waterfall for one night. From there, head down to the beach, Playa Blanca, stay there in a hotel at the beach 2days, head back to San Jose on Thursday to do the whitewater rafting on Friday. Canopy tour in tabacon and entrance fees in La Paz include. Car provided, rafting trip and all food at Arenal.$885.pp. How does that sound? Too much driving or not to bad? I am trying to avoid too much car time if I can. Thanks!
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Old Oct 27th, 2004, 01:05 AM
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This reads like a huge dollar improvement from the first set of details.

I realize I'm the late horse in this race, but can the tour package company specify what level of room you're being promised at each of the hotels? This could be important.

"Canopy tour in tabacon and entrance fees in La Paz included"

There are a couple of different canopy tours in the Arenal region. Is it possible for them to specify which canopy tour is included? This could be important.

Also, the transport vehicle should be nothing less than the Hyundai van/bus that is commonly driven in CR. Five years old maximum.

Did they name the river for the rafting trip out of SJ? If it is the Pacuare, you're in a great place.

Not trying to create headaches, simply trying to eliminate the "wiggle room" in the contract.

Regarding the all-day river raft trips :
Wake time is about 5:00 a.m., drive for an hour, eat breakfast, drive for an hour, put the raft into the water. Begin Rafting.
Some raft tours stop for lunch midway down the river. Some don't.
Resume Rafting.
Exit the river, drive a couple hours back to your hotel.
Some raft tours stop at a restaurant for a meal after the rafting has concluded. Some don't.
For the drive home, I recommend a change of clothes and whatever hand-held video games the kids are into these days. Some people sleep in the bus/van on the way back.

Some items to remember:
Waterproof camera, or camera in a waterproof camera bag is recommended. Tevas or aquasocks for feet. Baseball cap or visor to wear in conjunction with helmet. Sunscreen. Croakies/Peeper-keeper if a person plans to wear sunglasses or corrective lenses.
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Old Oct 27th, 2004, 04:33 AM
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TRIPLESECDELAY: Thanks for the advice, the rafting is on the Pacuare, and very early,but sounds worth it. Do you think the driving is too much? 4hrs first day,none the 2nd, 3.5 to La Paz the 3rd day, 3hrs the 4th day to the beach,none the 5th, 1.5 to San Jose the 6th,driving to rafting the 7th. It seems to be the thing to do in costa rica to be able to see a lot while there. But maybe I should alter the route. I'll check on the canopy tour in Arenal, which one should I specify?
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Old Oct 27th, 2004, 06:55 AM
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"Do you think the driving is too much?"
I don't. Most of what you stated are the "fixed" elements of the driving time equation.

The variables for driving times are the transfers to... Observation, Hanging Bridges, SkyTrek at Arenal, dining in Fortuna, renting quadracers, etc.

I like to wear the kids out with activities during the days so that I can sleep at night - knowing that they are, too.

Somebody might say "too much car time", but it probably averages out to something similar to what most people drive in their daily home schedule, anyway.

"...canopy tour in Arenal, which one should I specify?"

You will find many opinions on this, but I would assume that the tour company is taking you to SkyTrek/SkyTram - which is well worth the $40-45 per person people are paying. New equipment. Tram is made by Doppelmayer (Austrian ski lift co.) Hand-brake system is safer than braking using gloves on the cables. Remember bug repellant here.

Just noticed you might be swimming... please consider taking swimmer's ear solution - or - H202 in an eye-dropper. It's only $2 and can save an earache from ruining somebody's trip. I watched this remedy do its magic one trip.
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Old Oct 27th, 2004, 11:20 AM
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Where is Playa Blanca and do you know what hotels they are putting you up in?
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Old Oct 27th, 2004, 05:31 PM
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ALLY- not going to Playa Blanca, it is a beach connected to a hotel. The beach hotel we are going to use is the Hotel Club del Mar, near Jaco Beach.
TriplesecDelay:
We are going to do the Canopy Tour at Mahogany beach on the way back to San Jose instead of the one at Tabacon. We'll do the hanging bridges at Tabacon, any other suggestions about great activities there at the hot springs? How about the ATV tour? The boys might like that. Also, anyone been to the Jaco beach area? What is it like around there, and what are activites there? Doing the rafting at Pacuare, that seems to get really good reviews. All of you have been so helpful, it really has made a big difference in planning!
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Old Oct 27th, 2004, 09:30 PM
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ATV / quadracers is very likely a good idea for 3 teenage boys. My brother and I loved them at that age, when they were available only with 3 wheels!
Waterfall hike at Arenal is another great idea.
I didn't learn of this until after returning from CR, but there are some great trails behind Arenal Paraiso, that you might research here on other threads - or another Fodorite could share that nugget of info...
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Old Oct 28th, 2004, 09:03 AM
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I also think that your boys would enjoy the ATV tour.

As far as Jaco Beach goes, it is basically a back-packer/surfer kind of town. Not very attractive, but there are lots of dining options in the area. Your boys could surf or take surf lessons there.

I would also suggest a day trip to Manuel Antonio National Park. It's only about 1 hour south of Jaco, and it's a good place to see wildlife (provided you have a guide with a scope, of course). Although we enjoyed our stay in the Arenal area immensely, we didn't see a whole lot of wildlife there.

Restaurants we enjoyed in Jaco Beach:

El Picaro - Tiny Italian/pizza joint tucked behind an internet cafe. It's owned by an Italian family and has great pizza. (There's also a Subway and Pizza Hut in Jaco in case your boys are craving American food)

Caliche's Wishbone - interesting, varied menu.

Between the rafting, ziplines, ATV tour on lava beds, hiking and maybe surfing, I think this will be a trip that your boys remember for a lifetime!
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Old Oct 28th, 2004, 10:42 AM
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I second the suggestion to take a day trip to Manuel Antonio, not just for wildlife but for beautiful beaches, which I hate to say, Jaco is not. Jaco in general is a little dirty and 'seedy' in my opinion, but they will sure have fun just people watching!
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Old Oct 28th, 2004, 12:55 PM
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I don't think you are getting a terribly bad deal on the package compared to the one package I compared it with. IVK recommended you contact costaricapackages for help. I compared their one trip advertised with your trip.

At $185 pp per day compared to their $200 pp per day. You are getting a much better deal even though the costs are not that far apart. Independently, your in country travel expenses alone would cost way more than the $315 (Dollar) car rental that they are offering. Your flights alone are going to cost more than that. Private transportation is not cheap and with so many people is not a bad way to go. Less worry about stopping along the way to eat or sight see because you won't have to worry about leaving the car unattended. Not to mention how much you will learn about the country from the driver. Most of the travel will be in comfortably sized mini van vs a tight large SUV rental.

Your hotels are well recommended with Tabacon being the slightly less recommended although some people think it is wonderful. With so many people, having free unlimited access to the hot springs is a big money saver (the boys are gonna love it!). Their hotels are much less talked about other than Arenal Paraiso which comes highly recommended. Finca que ama has been mentioned a couple of times fairly recently but not so much the others. Why? Possibly better options exist for the price?

You don't say how many meals are included, if any. That other package did have several that would need to be bought.

I would suggest you look into other packages to compare prices also. It is easy to look up different individual costs of hotels which would help you to determine if you are getting a good deal. We can all help there if you need it. Also, you need to continue to ask about individual hotels like you did in this posting and ask if the overall hotels in the package are good ones. It would help to know what standard of room is in the package as well as how many rooms per location to help figure out if it would be cheaper to arrange on your own.

We are all going to have opinions on whether going with a package is better than not. I personally believe that by giving you the most information that we can to help you make your own decision is the way to go.

I have broken down some of the costs if you book it yourself.
Rooms are standard
Approx cost for rooms all nights
$1400
Costa Verde Break down-$90 per night 2 rms=$180pn 3nights =$540 +tax (casas with 2 bedrooms could be cheaper)

Tabacon Standard rooms(2) $220per night $160 per room 2 nights= $440 +tax

Flights to/from Quepos $88 per person rt Total $440

1 night hotel Grano de Oro 2 rms $180+tax

Full sized SUV rental $70-85 per day plus additional ins. and taxes.

Full day rafting $89pp $450

So far you are up to about $2500 doing it yourself. The remaining $4000 difference from the tour package ($6500)could buy you a lot of food and a couple of good tours. I would plan on around $40pp per day for food and drinks averaged out with somedays more and others less. Could be more with boys that age! (that is another $1400!)
Safari Tour approx $65pp $325 total

Hanging Bridges approx $100

La Paz waterfalls approx $100

You are right around $3000 now doing it yourself. Even with having to pay for food every day you are still realizing a savings of $2000. That would easily buy you a private driver for 3 days instead of a car rental as well as some other tours.





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